university fees
Students unable to pay their university fees on time might have their visas revoked. Source: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

University fees can be expensive. Today, students are expected to fork out a small fortune to cover their university fees, especially if they wish to attend a respected institution. International students in particular are generally charged at least two to three times the amount of domestic students, making the decision to pursue an education abroad one that requires careful consideration. 

However, what happens when unexpected circumstances arise that prevent a student from fully paying their university fees? Here’s what you should know: 

What to know about your university fees

US universities are known as some of the most expensive in the world — and that’s after considering the fact that the average tuition at four-year public colleges in all 50 states increased by 37% within 10 years. In the UK, university fees are capped at around 9,000 pounds for locals, but increase with every year for international students. Studying in Australia is decidedly cheaper compared to the US and UK, but still packs a hefty expense. The same can be said for Canada

Usually, international students have to show that they are able to meet their fee amount before they are granted a visa. This can come in the form of producing a bank statement with sufficient funds, or having a sponsor to cover your costs. Regardless of how a student wishes to present their financial status, it is generally understood that they will be able to cover their full tuition. 

Here’s what happens if you are unable to do this.

The cost of education is steadily rising over the years. Source: Ethan Miller/AFP

Your study permit might be revoked

The first thing you should understand is that when you apply for a student visa to attend a university overseas, you agree to be bound by its terms. This means that you must show an understanding that you are expected to fulfill the criteria of a student, including meeting your assignment deadlines, attending a set amount of classroom hours — and yes, paying your fees on time. 

Most universities stress that covering the cost of your fees is your own responsibility. Sponsored students are included in this category. This means that if your funding has not come through, you’ll have to take it upon yourself to contact your sponsor and ensure that they make the payment before the due date.

If you do not pay your fees on time, you are at risk of having your student status frozen or withdrawn. Should this happen, your visa might be revoked because you will no longer be considered a student in your university. 

The good news is that this will usually be treated as a last resort measure. Most universities will reach out to you multiple times to inform you about how much you need to pay and when this amount is due. If your fee deadline is steadily approaching and you haven’t paid your fees, you might expect to see recurring emails from your fee office with details reminding you of this fact. 

If your university does not receive a response in regards to your fee status beyond a certain date, they will likely withdraw your enrolment from your programme. This means that you will not be able to access your university’s services or attend classes. Most importantly, your student visa will be revoked, and you may be asked to leave the country.

Students may not be able to attend classes or access university services if they don’t pay their fees on time. Source: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

What should I do if I can’t pay my university fees?

Meeting your fee deadline is therefore as crucial as it is daunting. Usually, students who don’t pay their fees don’t do so out of choice — they’re faced with unexpected circumstances that prevent them from doing so. It would certainly be an extremely stressful time for any international student struggling with this.

Still, there are some steps you can take if you find that you’re unable to pay your fees on time. 

The first thing you should do is contact your fees office. It’s important that your university is aware of any difficulties that you are facing so that they can take appropriate steps to help you overcome them. This could include putting you on a new payment plan to ease your financial burden. If your circumstances are considered dire enough, you may be granted an extension. 

Unfortunately, you’re not likely to be exempt from paying your fees, which means you’ll have to ensure that you can meet the full payment due at some point in time. Luckily, there may be some options for you to consider. 

A benefit of reaching out to your tuition fee office is that they may help you find — or at least, point you towards — alternative sources of funding. As most universities in major higher education countries are well-financed, they might have emergency funds that you can apply for. This is usually reserved for students who are facing extreme financial hardship and cannot afford the cost of their tuition. You can also look at other scholarship or funding options that you may be eligible for. 

We hope that this helps you resolve any of your doubts or worries about paying your fees.